I received the Amazfit Bip smartwatch to review at the start of March. On opening the retail packing, i charged the wearable up. Near the end of the April I gave it a second full charge. Last week the lightweight peripheral picked up its third charge, and is currently on 81 percent charge as I write this review.
If you are looking for one of the key selling points, then having a battery life measured in weeks has to be first on your list, unlike the hungry Apple Watch and Wear OS (nee Android Wear) smartwatches, Even the 5 day battery life of the Pebble family still left a little tickle in my brain of ‘where/when is the next charging point’. The Bip is one of the first smartwatches where I can effectively forget about charging. It’s there, it works, end of discussion.
The second key selling point is price. Launched in the US at $99, the Amazfit Bip has had a number of offers and voucher deals, so it’s possible to pick it up with a bit of hunting as low as $69,
Of course there are compromises to get to that price. How these will impact on your experience comes down to what you want from your smartwatch. If you are looking for a huge amount of information, wrist-based applications, and the ability to control multiple areas of the paired smartphone, then the Bip is not for you. That means that one of the features that I have enjoyed in other smartwatches – controlling the music player on the smartphone in my pocket – isn’t part of the built-in software.
This year I’ve had to rely on certain functions of the smartphone toolbox more than others. The need for leisure activities (such as media control) have lessened, while monitoring my sleep, exercise levels, and tracking other movement-based activities has increased. The Bip fits in wonderfully with my new requirements; it doesn’t have to be charged up every night (so sleep ca be tracked), I don’t have to consciously take it on or off so it’s always there for exercise, and the regular alarms to take my medication are always at my wrist.
The Bip comes with three main sensors – the obvious motion sensor to track step counts and movement during exercise; a heart rate sensor; and a GPS to track your location through the day (or switched on for an exercise session) if you wish. Of course measuring full body activities from a wrist can never be completely accurate, there will be some extrapolation involved – especially in terms of step counting. My view is not to trust the number as gospel, but to trust the trend that I can see developing over time.
I have a similar thinking regarding the heart rate monitor. When i head into the gym I’m going to tighten the strap around my wrist for a more accurate reading, but in everyday use I open the wrist strap out a notch. It’s still firmly in place but the heart rate can be a little more variable. I like that you can keep track of your heart rate through the day – I’ve almost set up a confidence ‘’record every thirty minutes’ but of course when you start an exercise session (something that needs done manually) that sample rate increases.
Again it’s all about compromise. If you want a perfect instrument you are going to pay a lot more – and for those looking for an accurate fitness tracker there are more precise (and more expensive) options. For those like me who need tracking but with a little bit more margin for error, then I’m happy with that compromise.
The same can be said of the Amazfit Bip itself. The screen is color and always on,runs at 176×176 pixels, and is a 1.28 inch LCD display. The backlight stays off almost all of the time, but can be set to switch on if you raise the watch. Neither does the touchscreen stay active – in general you need to tap the crown button to activate the backlight on the screen and to have the Bip look for touch input. That touch input is more about swipes left and right, using the crown as a back button, and the occasional (Yes/Cancel) dialog popping up. Again a higher resolution screen or always on user interface has been put aside to focus on battery endurance.
And once you realise that your watch needs a tap before you can use the extra features, it’s something that becomes habit. Thanks to the reflective LCD screen, even without the backlight coming on you can make out the time in anything except the darkest of conditions.
I also appreciate that the watch works with standard 20mm straps, and the spring-loaded bar connectors seen across the industry. Although I’ve no issues with the enclosed silicone strap, the ability to switch it out for an alternative is welcome.
Let’s be honest here, if you’re going to try to use the Amazfit Bip with an iOS device you are going to have a poor experience. You can record your activity and have it uploaded to your iPhone or iPad, but so much of the app ecosystem is locked down by Apple by design that the whole package is very awkward.
This is much improved when you look at the Bip with an Android device. The companion app is Xiaomi’s MiFit – which shouldn’t come as a surprise given Amazfit is a subsidiary of Xiaomi. The UI will be familiar to those who have worked with Xiaomi’s MIUI variant of Android. That means a large colourful key graphic at the top of the screen, and boxed out numbers in the bottom half. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you get the principle of how the UI layout works, it’s surprisingly efficient – but there’s no concession to Apple’s iOS UI or Google’s Material Design.
Your data also syncs to the cloud through an Xiaomi account, so it’s easy enough to move between two Amazfit devices, or two smartphones, or even move over from Android to iOS and back again. It also syncs data to Google Fit and Apple Health, so if you want to test the watch and not carry two trackers, you’ll not lose any tracking data.
One thing I appreciate is the granular control you have over every aspect. The time between recording your heart rate is one example. Another is the ability to switch on or off any smartphone application’s ability to send a notification to your watch. You can strip back the constant low of alerts to just those vital to you. Of course there’s no interaction with the notifications as you have with Wear OS or WatchOS, but that once more reflects the philosophy of the Bip – it is there to record information and to let you know when something is happening on your phone… and that’s it.
This is a subordinate companion to your smartphone. That clearly defined approach makes for a product that knows exactly what it wants to deliver, and it delivers everything it promises. Can it rival the more expensive smartwatches on the market? That depends what you are looking for. Personally the Amazfit is very close to my ‘ideal smartwatch deliverables’ that it has won me over, but your decision will be different.
What I can say is that the Amazfit delivers what it promises – and is clear about what it does not deliver. If you need a long-lived smartwatch, with solid tracking, and simple notifications from your smartphone, I’d definitely recommend you have the Bip on your shortlist.
Let’s put it another way. There are fashionable smartwatches, there are stylish smartwatches, there are sportscar-esque smartwatches. The Amazfit Bip is the indestructible Casio F-91W of smartwatches.